Foraging for your own ingredients, like field greens, is a rewarding experience. Not only does your food taste more close to nature and is chuck-full of nutrients, foraging opens pockets of time to be with Mother Nature herself. It is also time for quiet self-reflection, a healthy helping of fresh air, and a much-needed unplugging from this digital century.
Moments in nature are prime opportunities to apply learnings and know-how that you have acquired from the older generations – whether you forage a morel or marvel at a fir. I have been learning what is edible, inedible, and all that is in between. For example, a wild green could be edible when young but bitter during mid-season so in that circumstance you would know to pass. Mushrooming in late spring and early summer is a well-documented passion of mine often of which I share recipes in this blog. Additionally, mushrooming is a life-long education to create unmatchable tastes in the kitchen in sauces or soups but also requires knowledge to stay safe.
Perhaps a good place to start for the beginner forager is nutting in early fall. This provides those weekend waking hours, the ones steeped in morning fog, with long drives out into tree-lined side and byways armed with a long shaking stick and basket. Above all, it is an unbeatable way to start a weekend. You will be prepared for all the fall and holiday cakes calling for nuts (a walnut favorite here) which truly taste a galaxy away from the store-bought stuff. Learning simple basics of foraging come with big flavor and tastebud payoffs.
This foraged field greens recipe here is for everyone – with the greens depending on your region. It is inspired by a recent Italian book, Pasta Grannies, I have been trying and adapting to my taste this summer and over the weekends spent away from the city. I gathered my greens directly at our cottage in the Czech Republic as well as in a neighboring field. You can create the recipe below, too, by “home-foraging” in your own refrigerator by simply using the top edible greens of beets against textures like endive, parsley, chicory, or de-stemmed spinach. I am sharing what went well in my household but whether you forage like myself or explore the dark corners of your bottom fridge crispers, aim to have about 1 kilo of about 7 varying greens, weeds, and herbs. You are looking to create a mixture of taste and texture in your greens so diversify your selection. Your local farmers’ markets should offer plentiful, in-season greens that can inspire you from spring to early fall.
Selecting & Preparing Your Field Greens
Forage or locate the following greens:
- Dandelion leaves
- Beet stems, leaves
- Celery leaves
- Or, substitute with your own favorites such as endive, rocket, or chard
Clean greens and remove tough stems. In a large kettle, bring salted water to a boil. Add your greens and cook until tender – approximately 10 minutes. Once ready, strain and place to the side – saving your water to cook the pasta. Once cool to touch, wring out extra water by twisting in a paper towel.
Preparing Your Dough
To begin your tagliatelle: 300g of 00 Farina flour and 3 fresh (room temperature) farm eggs. Place flour on clean and floured wooden board and form a circle with a well in the middle. Add your eggs and begin to scramble with a fork then fold in slowly the sides of your well to begin to thicken the dough. Keep egg mixture inside the flour walls. Continue until you reach the wall’s brink then begin to fold with your hands. You want to activate the gluten so set aside 10-15 minutes of kneading – pushing away with the heels of your palms and rolling back with your fingers. Fold and rotate and continue until you reach a silky, smooth texture. If it begins to dry, wet your fingers and slowly hydrate your dough. Once texture is reached, set aside in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a clean tea towel, keeping air out. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
If you are like me, you have the standard wooden rolling pin. Although in Italy most home cooks have broom-length rolling pins and wooden pasta boards for rolling that can cover a full dining room table, let’s work with what most of us have. First, divide dough into thirds (if most of us had a bigger space, we could either divide in half or use the entire dough). Take first ball out (keep 2 covered) and begin to massage then roll with your pin into your best shaped circle. Focus on the evenness and consistency. If you have various thickness of pasta it will cook inconsistently and not be with all this effort. Add tiny amounts of flour if your dough is sticking. Roll the dough around your rolling pin and slide off like a sarcophagus. Using a sharp knife or pastry roller and slice appx 1.5 cm ( 1/2 inch) ribbons. Keep size consistent. Setting aside on a towel and be mindful to prevent sticking by giving your pasta space and flour, if needed. Continue with the remaining dough balls and set aside.
Assembling Your Dish
What You’ll Need
- 1 medium shallot – diced
- 2 garlic cloves – minced (or 3 cloves depending on personal taste)
- 1 chopped red chili
- Olive Oil
- Salt and fresh-cracked pepper
Once your dough is resting and greens cooling, in a large non-stick fry pan, sauté shallot, garlic, and chili pepper over medium heat. Once tender, add your greens and reduce to low, bringing out the aromas. Here, you can go by flavor – either adding fresh lemon juice or a spot of olive oil to prevent from drying out. If the greens begin to bind, separate with a fork. While the greens are cooking, bring the your salted water back to a boil, adding pasta in to cook for approximately 3-5 minutes. Taste for doneness. Add pasta into the fry pan with greens, tossing together and adding olive oil if necessary or a splash of water from your pasta water. Add salt and pepper. Optional is that you can top with optional toasted nuts or a pinch of Parmesan Reggiano cheese, if desired. Serves 4.